Fan favorites. Everyone has them. They aren’t necessarily the ‘stars’ of the team, or even the most talented. Sometimes these individuals help the team in major ways, others hinder the team as a whole.
Henrik Lundqvist is a fan favorite of people who don’t even cheer for the Rangers. ‘King Hank’ is extremely popular with the female fans because… well, you would have to be blind to not see why. He is nice to the fans. He makes a good portion of his personal life open to the public on Twitter. Everyone knew about the freezing bird that he saved last year, and they know that he plays the guitar in a band. People love that sort of thing. Aside from all of that, he puts up the numbers in save percentages to claim the title of ‘King Hank’. He contributes to his team both on and off of the ice. I have to admit that I was disappointed when he didn’t start in net when the New York Rangers recently visited Tampa. He does awesome stuff like this:
Marc-Andre Fleury is another crowd pleaser. The man is hilarious! He is always doing and saying things to make people laugh. Last season the Pittsburgh Penguins had to practice in Brandon so I had the opportunity to see watch them. Fleury was so funny in his creative ways of blocking shoot out attempts. Penguins lover or Penguins hater, you have to smile at Flower. Here’s some of his funny moments, but I must warn you that there are a couple of dirty words in there. It’s Flower. Of course there are!
Take a look at Sidney Crosby. Yes, he’s the captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but what has he done for the team lately? He’s injured half of the time. True, he is a very talented player when he applies himself. But he skates with a sense of entitlement and always seems to act as if he’s being wronged. He likes to play the victim which has also been noticed by many fans. You either love him or you can’t stand him. The media loves him. He can do no wrong, especially in the eyes of Pierre McGuire. Evgani Malkin plays on the same team and is far more talented, yet Sidney is the face of the NHL. Not one I personally care to look at.
Now let’s take a look at Tampa’s fan favorites. If you ask around, pretty much every single player will be named at some point. The ‘big three’ are Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier. Cory Conacher is already warming hearts and winning the fans over. Steve Downie was a huge crowd pleaser, and fans were quite upset when he was traded last season. It still leaves a bitter hole in the hearts of many. (My 12 year old son still has yet to forgive Steve Yzerman, and he has a Downie shrine on his wall. He just doesn’t understand the business side of the NHL yet.) Ryan Malone always wins anyone over with his smile. He’s funny an always making fans and teammates laugh. But we have to look past that and see that he is inured a lot. He’s currently on injured reserve with a lower body injury.
Everybody loves Martin St. Louis. He’s known as the heart and soul of the Tampa bay Lightning. he works harder than anyone else and is a great leader. He loves to entertain the fans. He’s a true teammate. Even though he still pops out assists like candy, lately I’ve noticed a good number of turn overs that were caused as a result of him blowing a pass. The puck comes straight for him and slides right under the blade of his stick, causing the puck to sail right past him. I won’t mention the lack of shots, as the team in general needs to work on that. However he’s missed some good scoring opportunities. In my opinion, and the opinion of several others, he hasn’t played at 100% since he returned from his eye injury last season.
Vincent Lecavalier is doing much better this year than he has in recent years. The Lightning players mostly said the same things heading into the shortened season: That they start off slow and be messy, but they would increase chemistry and get better as the weeks go on. The exact opposite has happened. They started off with a bang and then lost their edge. I’m not down talking the team. The talent is there. All I’m saying is that perhaps management needs to take a step back, look at things, and reevaluate. Maybe make some changes to shake things up a bit. Major changes will upset and even anger many fans, but those fans will get over it when they are watching the championship parade. I never get a player personalized jersey, unless that player is retired. I’m not going to be wearing a reminder that my favorite was traded a season ago.
This is what it boils down to: Would you rather have a team full of fan favorites, or would you rather have a team in possession of the Stanley Cup? Though fan relations and interaction is important, good looks and entertaining the public and the media won’t win championships. If a player is not giving, or is not able to give, that 100%, then perhaps it’s time to move on. No matter who they are or how popular they may be. It’s time for the Lightning to raise a second Stanley Cup banner.